Large Pelagics Survey At-a-Glance
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program administers a national network of recreational fishing surveys. The Large Pelagics Survey gathers catch and effort information from vessels targeting large pelagic or highly migratory species.
How does NOAA Fisheries collect information about offshore recreational catch?
Offshore recreational fishing trips use distinct fishing methods to target specific species. Because these trips are so specialized, they often fall outside of the sample frames of our general recreational fishing surveys. The Large Pelagics Survey was established to fill this data gap and collect catch and effort information from private and for-hire vessels targeting tuna, sharks, billfish, swordfish, and other large pelagic or highly migratory species from Maine through Virginia.
The Large Pelagics Survey is administered by NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program. It is conducted by a contracted firm and state partners from June through October, which is when most fishing trips targeting large pelagic species occur. It includes three components: intercept, telephone, and biological.
- The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey collects catch data from a random sample of private and charter boat operators who have just completed a fishing trip targeting large pelagic species. The resulting data are used to produce species-specific estimates of catch per vessel trip.
- The Large Pelagics Telephone Survey collects effort data from a sample of the vessels that hold the permits required to fish for large pelagic species. (These permit holders are contacted as part of an “add-on” to the For-Hire Survey.) The resulting data are used to produce estimates of the number of vessel trips on which anglers fished with hand-gear (i.e., rod and reel or handline) for large pelagic species.
- The Large Pelagics Biological Survey collects length and weight data and biological samples (e.g., otoliths, muscle tissue, first dorsal spines, and gonads) for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Unlike the intercept and telephone surveys, the resulting data are not incorporated into our recreational catch estimates. Instead, the data and samples are used by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center to assess the age structures of stocks, population genetics, growth rates, and reproduction rates.
How does the Large Pelagics Survey benefit me?
When anglers participate in a recreational fishing survey, they’re making a vital contribution to our understanding of recreational catch. The data vessels provide to the Large Pelagics Survey are used to produce catch estimates that are published on a monthly basis. Complete and accurate information from the offshore recreational fishing community informs international stock assessments and helps ensure managers receive the landings information they need to monitor catch against quotas and pass only those regulations necessary for the long-term sustainability of stocks.
What can I do to help?
Effective fisheries management relies on accurate catch estimates, which can only be produced with the support and cooperation of anglers. Private anglers and for-hire captains are encouraged to participate in the data collection programs that apply to them.